German Elections: Smaller Parties Will Likely Decide Who Runs Next Government It will likely take three parties to form a government. Two smaller parties — an environmentalist, progressive party and a libertarian party — appear to be banding together to call the shots.

Smaller, Younger Parties Will Likely Determine Who Runs Germany's Next Government

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Who will inherit Germany after Chancellor Angela Merkel? Well, given the results of yesterday's election, the answer seems to be the young. Even though the top two vote-getters were Germany's traditional big-tent parties, yesterday's fragmented vote has put two smaller and younger parties in the driver's seat. From Berlin, here's NPR's Rob Schmitz.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: (Speaking German).

ROB SCHMITZ, BYLINE: It is an old tradition in German politics to, after the first election results come out, assemble the chancellor candidates for each party on the same stage to talk about what just happened. It's called the Berlin Round, and it can be a deeply awkward event if your party didn't do that well or a confidence booster if it did. For Christian Lindner, the head of the libertarian FDP party, it was the latter.

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UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: (Speaking German).

SCHMITZ: Lindner's party only received 11.5% of the vote in Sunday's election. But because the two top parties only ended up with around 25% of the vote each, Lindner's paltry tally was enough to ensure that whoever hopes to govern will likely need the FDP to form a coalition government. And that's why Lindner, and not the biggest vote-getter, is out front in coalition talks.

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CHRISTIAN LINDNER: (Speaking German).

SCHMITZ: He suggested to the television audience that the environmentalist Greens, with their 15% of the vote, should team up with his party. And together, they would decide which major party to team up with to form the next government.

SUDHA DAVID-WILP: The smaller parties are in the driver's seat. Merkel has left a very fragmented political landscape in Germany.

SCHMITZ: Sudha David-Wilp is deputy director of the German Marshall Fund's Berlin office. She says it will likely take three parties to form Germany's next government, and it's clear the FDP and the Greens will be two of those parties. She says both parties are filled with young policymakers.

DAVID-WILP: And it shows with the results. The FDP and the Greens were the winners in terms of the younger vote in Germany after last night.

SCHMITZ: In fact, the only parties that made gains from the previous election were the FDP, the Greens and the center-left Social Democrats, whose chancellor candidate, Olaf Scholz, acknowledged as much after the official results were released.

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OLAF SCHOLZ: (Through interpreter) The voters have made it clear. They strengthened three parties - the SPD, the Greens and the FDP. And that is the clear mandate from the citizens of this country that these parties should lead the next government.

SCHMITZ: But Merkel's center-right Christian Democrats beg to differ. The party's chancellor candidate, Armin Laschet, told supporters after the election results that he had received the will of the people despite delivering the worst results for his party since World War II. Berlin voter Tobias Nehren was not impressed.

TOBIAS NEHREN: (Speaking German).

SCHMITZ: The 40-year-old IT worker says Laschet is grasping at straws, that he has no choice but to say such things in order to save his own skin. He says Laschet most certainly does not have the will of the people and will likely be fired as his party's chair within weeks. The German Marshall Fund's David-Wilp says Laschet may try to form a coalition government with the FDP and the Greens but that it probably won't pan out because of the strength of Olaf Scholz.

DAVID-WILP: Olaf Scholtz certainly has the wind in his back. He really has made a turnaround for the party. And although he's just leading by, like, barely less than two percentage points, he is definitely coming in with a more positive, bullish outlook as a chancellor candidate.

SCHMITZ: David-Wilp says the hardest work is yet to come. It could take weeks, if not months, of haggling before Germany sees its next government.

Rob Schmitz, NPR News, Berlin.

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